In 1999, David Howard, an aide to D.C. Mayor Anthony Wlliams, made headlines because he used the adjective “niggardly” in reference to the city’s budget. Howard was white, and a black colleague objected to what he perceived as a racial slur. The word evidently has Norse origins: nigla means to worry about small things. Howard resigned but after an internal review demonstrated, amply, that no racial slur was intended, he was offered a different job by Williams.
I thought of this incident today when the homepage of Politico has two items about controversies surrounding word choice. And the front section of the Washington Post has a third article about another incident.